THE HEAD NURSE'S STORY

 

When little Jem was first brought to the hospital, it was in a carriage withliveried servants. His father was a mill-owner in Pennsylvania, and Jem wasan only child. He had the largest room in the private ward.

His parent's brought the boy fruit, flowers, and books.

"Please take them to that cripple in the next room, and to children in thefree wards, with my love-little Jem Bruce's love," he would say, raisinghimself in bed, with flushed cheeks and shining eyes.

In two month he recovered and went away, but two years afterward Mrs. Brucebrought him back. She was dressed in black, and asked for a cheap room. Mr.Bruce, I heard, was dead, and had left his widow little money.Jem's knee was worse than ever, but what a cheery, happy fellow he was! Hesoon learned the story of all the patients in the neighboring rooms, as hehad done before. And when his mother brought him a bunch of pinks or abasket of apples, he would eagerly divide them.

"Maybe they will make some one feel happier just for a minute," he wouldsay, with his rare smile.

His right leg was taken off at the knee. Then I lost sight of Jem for threeor four years. Last winter he applied for admission to the free ward. Hismother was dead. The disease had appeared in the other leg some monthsbefore. Jem had been supporting himself by typewriting, but was now nolonger able to work.

He met as if I had been his old, dear friend, -as indeed, I was, -and thenhobbled round the wards to see if he knew any of the patients, stopping tolaugh and joke and say some kind word at each bed.The doctors amputated the other leg that day. It was the only chance for hislife, but in a week they knew that it had failed.

"Make the boy comfortable," the surgeon said to me; "it is all that can bedone for him now."

Jem knew the truth from the first. But he never lost courage. This was hisbed (pointing to the middle one of a long row of white cots in the greatward). He learned to know all the men, and took keen interest in each case.When Johnny Royle died, Jem took out the few dollars remaining in hispocket, and gave them to me. "They're for his little children," hewhispered. "They have nothing." And when old Peter was discharged, cured, hecame to Jem's bed to say good-bye as if he had been his brother. Jem wrung
his hand, and said: "Take my overcoat, Peter; yours is gone, and-I'll neverneed mine again." He waved his hand, and cheered feebly as Peter went away.He had nothing left to give now-I think that cut him sharply, but one day hebegan to sing. He had a remarkable voice, clear and tender; it would forcethe tears to your eyes. Every head in the ward was turned to listen. Thatdelighted Jem. "I can sing for them occasionally," he said, "if the doctorswill allow it."

So, whenever it was possible, Jem's sweet voice was heard, sometimes in ahumorous song, sometimes in a hymn. I used to think he was at heaven's gatewhen he sang those hymns. But one morning his voice was gone, and beforenight everyone in the ward knew he was dying. The patients were silent, manyof them crying, for they all loved the boy. He died at sundown, sitting upin bed, leaning against my shoulder. He glanced around the ward, and theynodded, and smiled.

"Give them," he whispered, then stopped, remembering, poor child, that hehad nothing to give. Then he said, suddenly, aloud, his eyes brightening,"Give them my love-Jem Bruce's love."

Taken from The Youth's Instructor, January 29, 1903.